Even the best of businesses occasionally have disgruntled customers. Sometimes, consumers have unrealistic expectations and sometimes businesses make mistakes. Either way, dealing with upset customers is a part of business. Sometimes, these customers take their case to the internet and air their complaints social media networks. Handling social media complaints effectively is important for maintaining the reputation of a brand in the digital age and it's easy to make costly mistakes. Here are four tips that business owners can use to help manage angry customers on social media.

Tip 1: Handle Every Complaint Made on a Brand's Social Media Channel
Responding to all negative feedback on a brand's social media channels is a key part of a sound social media and reputation management strategy. Leaving negative comments or posts unanswered sends several bad messages to viewers trying to learn about the brand. First, it signals that people who use the brand are unhappy. Consumers may assume that if one person left a bad response, there may be many more customers who felt the same way but haven't bothered to write on social media. Second, it signals that the brand isn't responsive to service issues from their customers, which hurts the brand's credibility. It also makes it appear that brand doesn't have answer for the complaint being made. On the other hand, responding to complaints and fixing the situation boosts a company's reputation for all the same reasons.
For every negative post or comment on the brand's page, the business owner must either respond to the complaint and try to ameliorate the situation, or the comment should be deleted if it is without merit or the situation has been handled offline.

Tip 2: Direct Volatile or Sensitive to a Non-Public Channel
There will be many cases where it's good for a business to handle service issues publicly on social media. For example, the answer for the one customer is relevant to other customers who visit the brand's social media channel. Also, there are times when handling situations makes a company look virtuous and it's good to play that up (e.g. when a company doesn't have to replace an item but does it anyway). However, there are a lot of times when the conversation needs to be moved off the social media page immediately. This can easily be done by acknowledging the original comment and giving the person a number or email they can contact for further resolution. The situation can be handled offline and the comment can be removed from the page. For online retailers, this should often be done by default since most requests will require the user to give out private information, and that should never be done in the public comments section of a social media network. Moving the conversation offline is also a good way to deal with unruly customers who use foul language in posts.

Tip 3: You Can't Delete Your Way Out of Real Customer Service Issues
A key tenet of good PR is that whenever a company makes a mistake, they need to make an honest effort to acknowledge the problem, apologize and ameliorate the situation. Trying to hide or ignore a problem will only make the effects worse in the long run. This is especially true with complaints on social media networks. Ignoring, deleting comments from, or banning consumers with a legitimate complaint only makes them angrier and they are likely to attack the social media page, or the brand itself, in other ways. For example, they may use a friend's profile to continue posting negative comments, ad infinitum. They may also take their angry comments to a review site or list the business with a scam site.

The point is, real problems require real solutions. If a seems business is unwilling to provide a real solution when customers have a problem, they will find another way to get the business's attention. Ignoring real customer service issues usually does more damage to the company's reputation in the long term.

Tip Four: Respond to Complaints Quickly
To make a long story short, consumers expect brands to respond to a customer service complaint on social media within a day or two. For a brand that's posting content every day, this timeframe makes sense. When the customer leaves a complaint on the pages, returns, and sees the status has changed, they know the company has probably seen their message. If they come back a second day and see a new status, they start to feel that they are being ignored. It can be annoying, but business owners need to make that effort to keep their customers happy and feeling like the company cares about them. This is one area where businesses are notoriously bad at. According to several studies, the majority of social media complaints aren't handled in a timely fashion.

In the end, marketing and PR are two sides of the same coin, and that relationship extends onto the internet. When marketers encounter customer service issues or complaints on social media, they need to switch hats and handle the issue with the company's reputation in mind. People on the internet can angrier than they would be in face-to-face interactions, but it's worth dealing with that anger to benefit the long-term reputation of a brand. By using these tips to effectively manage angry customers on social media, business can set themselves apart as being paragons of good customer service and attentiveness to consumers.

Published on: Oct 20, 2014